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Let's reward corporations that embrace Free Software

The Free Software community is without a doubt today an important part of the overall IT business ecosystem. This community counts everyone from individuals to large corporations and is gathered around the common good that is Free Software, licensed under Free Software licenses such as BSD and GPL which also shields this common pool from outside exploitation. Corporations should already be realizing that they have to count with this community and its stance towards them. It is always good to cooperate with this community.

Sun Microsystems is one of the companies that can be with full respect called a part of this Free Software community and is increasingly one of its greatest contributors and supporters. It has sponsored an OpenOffice.org project from the beginning, freed their own operating system under a Free Software license, albeit not GPL compatible, but considering a GPL license for it in the future. And to top it all it is now releasing Java as Free Software under the GPL, a bold move that serves as a great example to other companies.

I believe the community should extend a warm thank you note to Sun Microsystems for this, but also to any company which shows clear support for Free Software. Doing this is a pragmatic thing to do. If we make a lot of positive buzz around every such positive move by any corporation, even more positive buzz than the amount of negativity that we created around the Novell-MS deal, we are sending a message of encouragement to any other corporation who is still vague in its support towards Free Software.

In other words, we need to loudly reward corporations for doing the right thing, so as to encourage others to do the same. Adobe needs to release flash, and Nvidia and ATI need to release their graphics card drivers as Free Software. Let's let them know that every such move towards the Free Software community will be rewarded by a great boost in reputation and cooperation that will end up making their own products better in eyes of millions of people around the world.

Even those who scarcely know what the whole Free Open Source Software thing is all about will know how to appreciate better quality of drivers for the new ATI cards, for example, quality which is boosted because the community was allowed to cooperate in making them better. Corporations need to get a clear signal that FOSS is not a dangerous thing to their business, that it is just the contrary, an added value to their own offerings.

What do ATI and Nvidia have to lose by releasing their drivers under the GPL? They sell hardware and that's their primary business. If freeing their drivers under a license that allows the community to *improve* them will result in drivers that bring the most out of their hardware then why not do it? It's a quality boost which translates to better customer satisfaction, and that always translates in better business.

What does Adobe have to lose from releasing flash when it is already letting it be downloaded for free? If they release the source code along the freedom to cooperate on it the community can only improve Adobe's technology, again resulting in a quality boost that can only help Adobe.

Every IT business in existence which has some software offerings today should ask themselves these same questions:

  • What is there to lose by freeing our source?
  • What is there to gain? (Reputation, better quality code, more innovation.)

It might just turn out that for most of the corporations which are still holding back the gain is higher than the loss. Let's tell them that. Let's repeat that. And let's build success stories out of corporations who have already made the step up towards cooperating with us!

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic


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Comments

Apparently, the code of

 

Apparently, the code of graphics card drivers could be used to figure out how exactly those cards work, allowing the competition to clone new technologies. I think that's a weak argument, and also it's bad to keep technology secret anyway. But here's the answer to your question: what they have to lose is secrets.

Yeah, this was mentioned in

Yeah, this was mentioned in one discussion we had on #libervis. These secrets are however only for old technology which has already been released, while what the most of their bets are on are new cards with new technologies which are still in development. Competitors can't know those.

Also, I'm still not sure that "loss" is as big as a gain. If they free their drivers they get the community to approve of them and help them make much better quality drivers than the ones of a competitor. So what if the competitor may see and study some secrets, if the competitor still can't come up with better drivers than what the community has to offer it will suffer, because they can make the best card in the world and still screw the performance and experience with drivers.

And if ultimately both release their sources, then both can "steal" ideas from each other. Who can benefit is the customer, because this kind of open competition can only rapidly improve their products. And that's who they ought to be caring about the most, customers, right? Eye

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